Over the coming weeks and months, some charities may need to hire new staff. How do you do this when your staff is working remotely? We examine successful onboarding practices from organisations with a history of remote working
Few things are more demoralising for a new staff member than to turn up for work for the first time to be greeted with a comment like "right, I suppose we better try and find you somewhere to sit." That’s because it indicates that their employer has not bothered to think about onboarding.
What is onboarding? Put simply, it is the process of:
Onboarding new staff effectively requires a good deal of effort at the best of times, but when new staff members will be working exclusively from home rather than doing flexible working – as is likely to be the case during the Coronavirus pandemic – then effective onboarding is harder yet even more important in terms of operations and efficiency.
Here are five virtual onboarding tips to ensure that new remote workers recruited by your charity are productive, happy, and part of the team, as quickly as possible.
1.) Make them feel part of your organisation
In an ideal world, all new remote workers should come into the office for a day or so to meet their colleagues in person and get a feel for the organisation’s culture. When this is not possible then they should be welcomed with a face-to-face video chat with an appropriate manager. This allows both parties to make eye contact and observe body language, and for the new staff member to understand the social and professional expectations of their new organisation in a way that phone call cannot.
Many organisations also send out a "care package" to new remote working employees which may include items such as a mouse mat or a cap branded with the organisation’s name or logo. This is designed to make them feel that they are part of a team even when they are sitting at home. Some organisations, such as Dell, also run a "Day 1 Success Team" which provides support to new remote workers using instant messaging, email or telephone to help people settle in.
2.) Hold regular team meetings using video conferencing
It’s vital that new charity hires do not feel isolated from or uninvolved with their new team, and it is very easy for existing staff members to forget about them. To avoid this, virtual onboarding should include:
Many organisations also carry out regular weekly or monthly "check-ins" between manager or HR staff and new staff members using video calling. These purpose of these is to ensure that newly onboarded remote staff feel that they have everything they need, including equipment, network access, and resources, to do their jobs properly.
3.) Ensure that newly onboarded staff understand the organisation
Different organisations, including businesses and charities, have different cultures, different ways of working, and different processes, which staff need to follow. Much of this is can be picked up very quickly in an office environment, but for remote workers, it can be a challenge to acquire this understanding.
Some organisations use onboarding videos to impart this knowledge, while others take things further. Stack Overflow, for example, puts new people and talent through a series of orientation calls with members of the executive team to learn about the organisation’s history, culture, goals, and structure.
At the very least it is a good idea to ensure that resources covering these subjects are available online for new remote hires to browse through at their leisure.
4.) Use collaboration software to build and maintain teams
Learning how to carry out a new job and provide a charity’s products and services can be difficult for remote workers because there is no-one at the next desk that they can ask for advice, no training sessions, and no easy on-the-job training with a co-worker.
An effective way to speed up the learning process is to use collaboration tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams to form online groups or teams. Once a team has been set up it is easy for newly onboarded staff to ask questions using chat, voice or video calling, and for other team members to offer help and share documents.
Collaboration software has an important social aspect too because it enables easy interaction between team members who are remote working, and allows the online equivalent of office gossip or conversations by the water cooler. This helps new hires feel less isolated and more part of the charity that they are working for.
5.) Help newly onboarded staff feel involved
Because it can be a challenge to instil a charity’s culture into remote workers’ lives, there is a risk that they feel less involved and "invested in" the charity and its goals than would otherwise be the case.
One way to overcome this challenge is to pair each newly onboarded staff member with a mentor who works in the main office or at the very least is a remote working "old hand." A good mentor can impart information to remote workers that formal onboarding material often does not: what is going on in the organisation, why things are done in certain ways, official and unofficial ways to get things done, and who you need to talk to to get things changed.